To keep your breast milk supply up, it’s important to stay hydrated. And before you reach for the “jungle juice”, or black coffee, just a couple of litres of good old water will do. This according to Hanna Kruger, a registered dietitian and spokesperson from the Association of Dietetics in South Africa (ADSA).
Mary Obioma Ezebili, (41), a mother and entrepreneur from Aguata LGA in Anambra State, Nigeria, says it can be challenging to find the ideal foods and drinks to boost lactation in Nigeria. According to Ezebili, most foods and drinks recommended by elders in her community are foods are high in carbohydrates but lack essential nutrients.
“Over here, we eat oatmeal for breakfast to deal with the situation,” she says. “We have a nutrient-dense pap called ‘akamu, ogi’ that has a long history of supporting moms in producing milk in Nigeria.”
Ezebili tells Health for Mzansi that they have a number of indigenous foods that are known to help mothers produce high-quality milk, including pepper soup, kunu – a drink made with slightly fermented millet – sorghum (guinea corn), rice, tiger nuts, and ginger, carrot juice, fonio, and moringa leaves which can be used in teas and stews.
“If the mother’s breast milk is insufficient to sustain the child’s nutrition, the doctor may recommend formula feeding, I believe that should not be a problem.”
Breastfeeding is supply and demand
Nosie Dynatyi-Mwanda (40), a mother and professional psychologist from Emfuleni in the Western Cape, says breastfeeding is one of the most satisfying experiences for most women. This being said, there may be times where it is difficult.
Not being able to produce milk for your child can be very tough to accept, says Mwanda. Women deal with several problems after childbirth, like the many changes to their bodies, not getting enough sleep, always worrying about the baby’s well-being, and postpartum depression, all of which can lead to their breasts producing little to no milk at all.
‘You are doing amazing, sweetie’
Dyantyi-Mwanda says sometimes the issue isn’t always a lack of milk but rather that the baby isn’t on to the breast well enough to get the milk.
“So, make sure to feed the baby or express your milk as often as possible. This also helps prevent breast engorgement, which normally happens if you produce breastmilk but are not feeding the baby or expressing milk more often.”
Dyantyi-Mwanda believes that water is beneficial since it stimulates milk production, but there are other beverages that can be substituted. These include any ginger-based drinks, such as Stoney or ginger tea, a nursing tea made from fenugreek, fennel, blessed milk thistle, rooibos tea.
Milk-stimulating drinks and recommendations
Low milk supply is a typical worry among breastfeeding women, says Kruger. Whether actual or perceived, mothers are using a variety of therapies to increase their milk production.
“While it is important to stay well hydrated, it is not necessary to force additional fluids when breastfeeding,” she says.
“When nursing, drinking to satisfy thirst above and beyond the 8 – 10 glasses of fluid is enough to maintain an adequate breast milk supply. Unless severely dehydrated, drinking extra fluids beyond thirst is not beneficial, may cause discomfort, and does not increase milk supply.”
Kruger says the widespread use of breastmilk-stimulating beverages, also known as lactation drinks, has resulted in the misconception that breastfeeding mothers require huge quantities of additional fluids to produce more breast milk.
“These beverages contain galactagogues, which are herbs and foods believed to boost breastmilk production.”
When consuming lactation drinks containing *galactagogues, Kruger believes the following is essential to remember:
- Galactagogues will be most effective in increasing milk supply when combined with increased breastfeeding frequency and milk removal.
- Some types of galactagogues work better in particular situations and not in others. It is best to work with a medical health care provider such as a registered dietitian or certified lactation consultant knowledgeable in their use.
- Galactagogues, whether herbal or prescription medication, have potential side effects, and can interfere with certain medications that must be considered for each individual mother.
Stick to the basics
When considering fluid intake, water is always the beverage of choice, but not everyone enjoys only drinking water, she says.
“Water is the main component of many beverages and can be used as such in the body, but limit sugar-sweetened beverages such as non-diet soft drinks, flavoured juice drinks, sports drinks, sweetened teas or coffees, energy drinks, and electrolyte replacement drinks.
Healthy alternatives to water can include fruit infused water, rooibos tea, low fat or fat free milk, 100% fruit juice, vegetable juice, or smoothies.”
She considers moderate quantities of caffeine to be acceptable (2 – 3 cups). Again, she emphasises the importance of considering the sugar content and types of galactagogues when choosing a breastfeeding drink, since they may not be the most suitable galactagogues for the mother’s specific situation.
Health For Mzansi Word of the day:
Galactagogues: According to Healthline, a galactagogue is a food that’s thought to boost your production of breast milk. These might include foods, herbs, and even prescription medications.